How To Look At Regret In A New Light

Why Do We Do Things That We Don’t Want To Do?

When I was about seventeen, I popped to a friend’s house for dinner before we headed off to some local hangout; probably a car park equipped with the lowest grade cider no doubt. His sweetheart of a mother had retrieved a platter of fresh-from-the-oven sausage rolls to feed our appetites and as I bit down on mine, I was horrified by the not so tasty reply of icy cold meat. Still frozen. And do you know what I did? I ate the whole thing to avoid embarrassment. I must have had the runt of the batch because the other one I ate (yes, I went in for a second) was fine, so I just hoped for the best and off we went. Of course, mid-evening I was running to the bathroom to inevitably throw up my own embarrassment whilst shouting wildly to my friend, ‘It was still frozen!’

So, why do we do things that we don’t want to do?

Avoidance.

We always talk about approaching life with no regrets, but can we all put our hands on our hearts and say we have none? I definitely regret wasting my last year of school and the first half of college with a dead-end boyfriend who I’d realized was wrong for me within the first few months of us being together. He made me doubt myself as a person, probably because he was sneaking around behind my back, and it wasn’t worth the heartache. If I had known then that I would choose to move relatively far away, preventing me from seeing the people I love most in the world as much as I would like to, I would have spent that time with them.

This un-prioritizing behaviour went on into my University years. I was desperate to study Art History at Sussex University. Then I got in. To say I was stoked is an understatement. But then I got offered a place at Goldsmiths, without an interview. I was shocked as it’s not an easy course to get on to, and I felt that I couldn’t turn it down. Nobody pressured me in to thinking this; I just came to this conclusion myself. So, I turned down my offer at Sussex and started my new life in New Cross.

And of course, I hated it. I hated being in a city all of the time, I hated the way the course was taught; I hated the pretentiousness of it all. I felt both pompous and pretentious in myself for being so smug about my place on a course, that I hadn’t even stopped to think about the priority of going to a University you actually like.

In hindsight, I was also probably just a bit home sick.

So, being the ignorant nineteen year old I was, I swapped universities back to where I studied my foundation diploma, about a twenty minute drive from my home town. Why? Because I couldn’t bear to wait a year, which when you’re nineteen seems like eternity, to start at Sussex University on the course I wanted to do.

After about four months I found myself hating my new course but just too embarrassed to admit it. So instead, I finished the course. I did the whole three years, hating pretty much every minute of it, trying to find work experience in London because I thought it was the right thing to do, spending all my hard earned money on endless train journeys back and forth to the city I was trying to get away from that seemingly kept sucking me back.

I finished University and I left the country immediately. I didn’t go to my Degree Show in London, I didn’t stay in contact with anyone from my course and I never looked back.

I can see now that big life changes don’t always come few and far between, sometimes they just keep coming. It felt like it had taken so much gumption to make the initial exchange, that I didn’t feel strong enough to admit defeat twice. By the time it was all over, I just wanted to run away. I felt guilty for a long time, partly because I realised how lucky I was to even have the opportunity to go to University and also because I felt like I had wasted my shot at the whole thing. 

Amongst the chaos of my thoughts however, I found a job in a local pub with what felt like my true tribe, a group of people who gave me the sturdy foundations of who I am today. A cluster of inspiring, wanderlust, beautiful people who made me feel nothing but great. It was fine that I hated my degree because there was a whole world out there to explore, where degrees didn’t even matter anyway. On the surface it was a pub job, but beneath that it was everything. Within those two years, whilst still studying for a qualification that I already knew I would never use and meant very little to me before I had even acquired it, I saw myself grow from self-conscious to self-worth. 

I’ll never forget those years of conflicting hate and bliss and I’m forever grateful to all of the people that I saw come and go, but soon I was to become one of them. The next chapter began. But this time, I wasn’t dreading the change with the same uncertainty I had previously felt about life, but instead embracing it with an open heart.

So, why do we do things that we don’t want to do?

Because sooner or later, it is from these mistakes that we learn about who we are and what we value.

Because the person who doesn’t make mistakes is unlikely to make anything.